Monday, January 30, 2006

Why the internet can be a bad place to meet people.

Why the internet can be a bad place to meet people.
A murder in Virginia. The Taylor Behl story.

We still do not know how she met her fate.
No one knows for sure how Taylor Marie Behl met her untimely fate. All that's known for sure is that she was last seen leaving her dormitory September 5th - two weeks into her freshman year at Virginia Commonwealth University in Richmond, VA.

Her badly decomposed body - identifiable only with dental records - was found in a shallow grave in a heavily wooded coastal area 70 miles east of Richmond.

A photograph posted online by one Ben Fawley - who is currently being held in connection with child pornography and illegal firearms charges - was used to identify the area where Taylor Behl's body was discovered.

Ben Fawley was named as a suspect.
Authorities named Ben Fawley as a suspect in the Taylor Behl murder.

Mr. Fawley maintains several websites dedicated to his interests in art, Goth culture and skulls. He was also found to be in possession of child pornography and illegal firearms. One of his online names is Skulz67. Taking a lesson out of Scott Peterson's playbook - Mr. Peterson was convicted of the murder of his wife Laci and their unborn child - Fawley altered his physical appearance. He cut his hair short and dyed it dark brown.

Now that the facts are in the open, it takes only a second to know that Ben Fawley is not the type of individual most of us would choose to associate with. Unfortunately, for those that were unlucky enough to encounter Fawley over the internet, he seemed just like anyone else. This brings me to why I've decided to write about this sad tale: Taylor Behl met Ben Fawley online.

Taylor Behl was an avid blogger and she maintained a detailed diary at LiveJournal.com. Her personal webspace at MySpace.com lists her as having 92 "internet" friends - one of which was Ben Fawley.

Taylor Behl made everything about herself available online.
Taylor Behl provided details on everything about her life online. She wrote about her interests, her complaints and unfortunately, her future plans. A resident of Vienna, Virginia, she wrote about moving to Richmond and beginning her college career there. She met Ben Fawley when he began posting messages on her website. Then both of them began exchanging messages on each other's sites. Taylor Behl then visited with Ben Fawley on one of her preparatory trips to Richmond. Fawley even posted a photo of them, taken together during her visit, on his website.

Exactly what happened between Fawley and Behl from the time she moved to Richmond and began college, until she went missing, is still being unraveled. All that is known for certain at this point is that she was murdered, and that she met Fawley - the man suspected of her murder - on the internet!

The list of tragedies following chat room meetings go on and on.
Make no mistake. The Taylor Behl tragedy is not an isolated occurrence. This type of horror story happens all the time. Here is one recent tragedy:

Terry Graham, Christopher Raynsford, Curt Blackman, Richard Sneath, and Sean Ethan Owen are all individuals who were murdered during the past year. Each of them met their killer in an online chat room at Gay.com.

The list could go on and on. These are just the murders. To this, add the number of rapes, assaults, robberies, fraud and using /abusing people that have happened after chat room meetings - and it becomes obvious that the internet is absolutely the last place you want to use to make friends.

Important things to know about meeting people on the internet.
Here are a few things I know - and you should know - about the internet:

1. The internet is exactly the wrong place to make details about your personal plans available to the public.

2. Predators look for easy and vulnerable prey. They are always scanning.

3. If you make your personal details public, and are willing to form relationships based on contacts you make over the internet - you are vulnerable.

Dangerous places to meet people are in chat rooms and other open forums. It's always a mistake to assume that anyone you meet on the internet is who they say they are, or, that their messages to you are true.

Internet dating services also are not without their problems.
Internet dating services such as Match.com, eHarmony.com, YahooPersonals and others, are another medium that has become an increasingly popular way to meet others. Typically, these dating services take whatever applicants provide them at face value, and perform no background checks. As a result, they are fraught with misinformation. True.com, also an internet dating service, actually screens subscribers. In doing so they find that (there are rejected) and 5% are already married and another 5% have criminal backgrounds (these are also rejected).

Many people who participate in dating services lie about themselves.
According to the authors of the best-selling book Freakanomics, studies indicate that many people who participate in internet dating services lie about themselves. Women typically lie about the things that interest men. This includes their weight (many of them tend to shave an average of 20 pounds), looks (the majority say their looks are above average - this simply cannot be true), and age. Men typically lie about the things that attract women. They tend to exaggerate their income and their height.

Internet dating horror stories.
It also seems that there are also horror stories with online dating services as there are associated with chat rooms. Consider the following:

Robert Friedrich and Alexander Strategos are believed to have been murdered (or poisoned) by the former Melissa Russell, who is now being referred to as the Internet Black Widow from Canada. Russell, who served time for manslaughter in the death of her second husband, Gordon Stewart, met each of her prey (Friedrich and Strategos) through an internet dating service.

41 year old Lori Han was shot to death by a Pittsburgh man, Hardy Lloyd she met through an internet dating service. When police apprehended him, 48 hours after the murder, Hardy Lloyd was riding in a car with another woman whom he had just met on the internet.

Like chat rooms, the list of tragic stories goes on and on. Again, the above list details just some recent murders. If the list included rapes, assaults, robberies and just bad experiences that happened to dating service participants, it would seem endless.

One internet dating service wants background checks to be mandatory.
There is one internet dating service, however, that is trying to buck the trend. It's called true.com and it wants to also require mandatory background checks of those participating in its dating services. Information on a bill that true.com wants the Michigan legislature to pass can be found at this link: http://www.true.com/saferdating/true_safer_faq.asp

The legislation if enacted would do the following:
1. Require disclosure of whether an online dating firm runs criminal background screenings.

2. Requires firms who do conduct criminal background screenings to disclose the limitations of those screenings, and provide safer dating 'tips' to their users.

Why meeting someone over the internet is so dangerous.
So why is it that meeting someone over the internet can be so very dangerous? I think it is because of the following reasons:

1. All of our warning mechanisms stem from having physical contact with an individual. We see how a person looks, hear how they talk, listen to what they say, observe their mannerisms - i.e., we instantly process whether they make eye contact, how quickly they respond when we ask them a question, and a myriad of other things. None of this is available to us when we meet someone on the internet. Instead, all we see are the words they type and what they want us to believe. All this said, it's certainly possible to be deceived by someone in person - in fact it happens all the time. But in person we stand a better chance of determining the character of the person we're meeting.

2. The safety of our neighborhoods and surroundings disappear when we're on the internet. Predators and other treacherous or sick individuals are able to cast a wide net that snares anyone who chooses to make themself available to it.

Many positive relationships result from internet meetings.
All of the above said, there are many positive relationships that have been formed as a result of individuals meeting over the internet. Nevertheless, it is important to realize that it's much easier for someone up to no good to find you over the internet than it is in person. Regardless of how you meet someone, it pays to be careful with who you associate with - this holds particularly true when comes to meeting people on the net.

My recommendations.
So to be safe, here are my recommendations:

1. Never make your personal contact information public over the internet.

2. Never assume that anyone you meet on the internet is who they say they are. (Research has shown that, quite often, chat room attendees who claim they are women are actually men, and visa versa).

3. Be very careful if you decide to physically meet someone you met over the internet. If you are using an online dating service, make it a point to read their recommendations for safe dating and follow them.

Be very careful.

So there you have it. Despite all the good it does, the internet can be a very dangerous place to make new friends. Many individuals have been victimized by those they have met, many have even been murdered. Since the internet is just getting started I suspect the nightmare stories we are now hearing about are just the beginning.

Bob Parsons is 'Go Daddy' founder and president.

Sunday, January 29, 2006

Even Seniors Are Turning to the Internet for Love

Tom Blake Offers Seniors Advice about Online Dating

Internet dating is not just for 20-somethings! Online dating is providing a new, dynamic alternative to the conventional singles scene, and seniors are the fastest-growing group turning to the Web to find a mate.

Tom Blake, author of "Finding Love After 50: How to Begin, Where to Go, What To Do," offered some Internet dating tips for the young at heart.

Specialize: There are sites for everything -- bridge, dancing, religion. Zero in our your specialty and don't spend too much time on general sites.

Don't give out personal information: The Internet is like a shield that allows some people to reveal more information than they normally would. However, if you realize after a face-to-face meeting that a person is not a match, having given out too much information could be embarrassing and even dangerous. Don't give up too much too soon.

Be skeptical: People tend to fib about personal details and for some, lying about age is actually a marketing strategy. Be aware that what you read may not be exactly what you get.

Don't take rejection personally: The Web can be really rude, and many seniors are not used to being treated that way. Don't let one bad experience get to you.

Protect your assets: There are plenty of Internet predators out there who would love to steal your money or your home. Use caution.

Be realistic: There are no guarantees in Internet dating. Women, especially, can get frustrated because there is a shortage of men, but even if things don't happen overnight, don't give up hope. It only takes one person to make Internet dating worthwhile.

2006 ABC News Internet Ventures

Sunday, January 22, 2006

The NUMBER ONE Internet Cheating Story of 2005

Boeing CEO Harry Stonecipher's Resignation Over His Extramarital Affair

Harry Stonecipher, 68, was forced to resign after the board received a anonymous tip about his affair with divorcee Debra Peabody, a vice president in Boeing's Washington, DC office. Stonecipher was exposed by x-rated company e-mails to Peabody, whom he'd met only weeks earlier at an annual company retreat.

Joan Stonecipher, his wife of 50 years, immediately filed for divorce.

Friday, January 20, 2006

Palestinian Woman Confesses to Internet Romance Murder

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Palestinian Woman Confesses to Internet Romance Murder

By Robyn Weisman

A Palestinian woman arrested in January 2001 for luring an Israeli youth to his death has admitted her part in the crime, but claims it was intended to be a kidnapping, not a murder. Amana Mona, the 25-year-old Palestinian woman charged in connection with luring an Israeli teen over the Internet to his death, has admitted her culpability in the crime, Israeli police announced Sunday.

Mona was arrested last January 20th, three days after the victim, 16-year-old Ofir Rahum, was found riddled with bullets outside of the West Bank town of Ramallah. Initially, she denied any connection to the slaying, but after a month of interrogation by Israel's General Security Service, she apparently broke down.

Mona's attorney, Jawad Boulos, told Israeli television that he did not believe her confession was coerced, though he noted that other "pressures," like sleep deprivation, were used to break her down. Boulos also said that Sunday was the first day he had been able to speak with his client since her arrest.

Kidnapping Gone Wrong

According to Israeli news reports, Mona claimed her goal had been only to kidnap the Israeli teenager. She had wanted to protest the murder of Palestinian children, she allegedly said, and hoped such a kidnapping would shock the world community to its senses.

In order to carry out her plan, Mona formed online connections with several Israeli teenagers who had expressed their rage over Palestinian violence. Mona ultimately settled on Rahum, with whom she spoke English. During the preparations for the kidnapping-turned-murder, Mona confided in another Palestinian who told her how to put her plan into action.

Once Mona had transported Rahum to the Palestinian town of Ramallah, a Palestinian believed to be senior activist in Yasser Arafat's Fatah faction "tried to pull [Rahum] out of the car but Ofir refused and [another] of the Palestinians, also a senior activist in Fatah, fired dozens of bullets from his Kalashnikov rifle," a statement released by prime minister Ehud Barak's office said Sunday.

"There was no plan to hurt the deceased," Mona's attorney told Israeli Radio. "What happened [was] out of her control, without her knowledge, and certainly without her consent."

New Terror Methods

Ben Venzke, director of intelligence special projects for Fairfax, Virginia's iDefense and an expert in the cyber aspects of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, told NewsFactor Network that this botched kidnapping is, "as we're seeing with so many things in cyberspace, another component of an action that has evolved in cyberspace."


Follow up to: Married to a Con Man...and Bigamist
On Dr. Phil Thursday, January 19, 2006

Tune in to Dr. Phil on Thursday, January 19, 2006!!

OUR FIRST PREDATOR OF THE MONTH ED HICKS!! will be featured in this story that made nationwide press when Dr. Phil helped BUST Ed Hicks!

Sandra Phipps (wife #7) and Julie Flint (wife #6) surprise Barbara Grant (Hicks' latest victim) as
Dr. Phil follows up with this dramatic story.

Go to Dr. Phil.com Saturday, January 14 for a synopsis of the show under This Week On Dr. Phil. Check the Local Listings for the time and channel in your area.


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Monday, January 16, 2006


By ROB MARGETTA, Standard-Times staff writer

NEW BEDFORD -- A Level 3 sex offender -- who spent a year in prison for two previous sex assaults -- has been charged with forcibly raping a 13-year-old girl he befriended in an online chat room.

After communicating with the girl for several weeks, William H. Garfield, 32, of 321 Union St., was able to persuade the girl to allow him into her home, where he assaulted her sometime within the past week, police said.
The rape is an example of what law enforcement officials and academics called a growing problem across America -- sexual predators finding their victims on the Internet. (this goes for ADULTS being targetted also!!)

"My fear is that we don't know how prevalent they are because they're not reported," Bristol County District Attorney Paul Walsh said. "I think there are huge amounts that go unreported. ... If I had 20 police officers on computers, I could probably pick up 20 perverts an hour."

Mr. Garfield was convicted of two counts of indecent assault and battery on a person 14 or older in 1993, according to the state Sex Offender Registry Board. He was sentenced to a year for the crimes.

The state lists him as a Level 3 sex offender -- the category reserved for those
deemed most dangerous and most likely to reoffend.

Lt. Richard Spirlet, a spokesman for the New Bedford police, said the victim in the latest case against Mr. Garfield met him in a chat room in mid-November. Police didn't want to release the exact date the assault took place in order to protect the victim's identity, Lt. Spirlet said. He said the victim's mother realized there was something amiss with her daughter shortly after the rape occurred. The girl told her mother about the attack, and the mother contacted police Sunday, Lt. Spirlet said.

"If it wasn't for the mother, we wouldn't have found out about it," he said.

Mr. Garfield was arrested Monday. He was arraigned the same day on one count of rape of a child with force and held on $50,000 cash bail. According to court records, his history of sex offenses heavily influenced the bail amount, New Bedford District Court Judge David Turcotte set.

Mr. Walsh said one particularly troublesome problem with Internet-related sex crimes is that victims are often reluctant to come forward.

He used a recent case his office prosecuted as an example of an "embarrassment factor" that often arises in such cases. The Rev. Stephen A. Fernandes, a Catholic priest and the former pastor of a New Bedford church, posed as a young woman using an instant messaging service, and convinced a 16-year-old boy to masturbate on camera and send him the video file. The Rev. Fernandes pleaded guilty to collecting hundreds of child pornography images and received eight months in jail, but Mr. Walsh said the 16-year-old was hesitant to speak to investigators in the case. "That kid was embarrassed to daylights," he said.

Internet sex crimes have recently become an issue of concern both nationally and locally; last year, a Falmouth man was charged with raping a teenager he met in a chat room. In October, Yahoo said it would bar chat rooms that promote sex between minors and adults and restrict all chat rooms to users 18 and older.

Ann Wolbert Burgess, a professor of psychiatric and mental health at Boston College, whose areas of study include cyberstalking and Internet sex crimes, said that online predators are well-practiced in seducing underaged victims.

"They're very sophisticated about when adults are around," she said. "Parents have to be vigilant."

John Palfrey, a Harvard law professor and executive director of the Berkman Center for Internet and Society, said sex offenders have found a powerful new tool in cyberspace. "While we know it has done great things for democracy and society, does it also do more for criminals?" he said. "I think the answer is yes."

The problem areas of the Internet aren't just the chat rooms and message boards, he said. Every day children are posting information that can lead predators to them on services such as Myspace.com, Friendster and blogging services. The Web sites were created to give people ways to keep in touch with each other, look each other up, or post thoughts online.

"What you're doing is creating stalker.com, effectively," Mr. Palfrey said. He said users often post information thinking that only friends will see it, not realizing that anyone can.
"I think anything personal that you wouldn't want everyone to see on the front page of the New York Times is too much," he said.


Friday, January 13, 2006

Sex, Lies, and Online Dating

by Rachel Gibson

Rachel Gibson tells all about . . .

SEX . . .
What is it about men anyway? Bad cars, bad jobs, even bad teeth -- nothing convinces them that they can't snare a Size Two Babe with a D-cup chest. And after way too many internet dates with men named "luvstick" and "bigdaddy182," Lucy Rothschild should know.

LIES . . .
But sitting across from her now is "hardluvnman," and he seems different -- sensitive, honest, and hot! He says he's a plumber, while Lucy claims she's a nurse! She's really a mystery writer, dating online while researching her next book. Hey, everyone lies a little, don't they?

But Quinn's really an undercover cop hunting down a serial killer, and he sees Lucy as his top suspect. And while he could really go for this smart, sexy woman with the killer bod -- if that's the only thing "killer" about her -- he knows he needs to wine and dine her and discover the truth. Hey, he realizes the dating scene can be deadly -- but this is ridiculous!

Thursday, January 12, 2006

Escaping the Cyber-Slums

by Lawrence Kelemen

Online dangers and practical responses.
Like most public libraries in the United States, the Central Phoenix Library provides adults and children with Internet access. When Toni Garvey, the chief librarian, recently spotted three separate men and a group of giggling girls viewing pornographic material on the library's terminals, she had no idea how to respond. She says she feels uncomfortable providing such material for the public, but so far Federal courts across the country have ruled that banning the Internet from public institutions or even filtering its contents "offends the guarantee of free speech" and "restricts First Amendment rights." Garvey complains, "For me, this has been one of the most challenging issues of my career. We all want to do the right thing, but it's not clear what the right thing is." 1

Garvey, like most people of conscience, is morally confounded by the technology that links together nearly half a billion people in a "Worldwide Web" -- a global village -- allowing instant, anonymous exchange of uncensored text and images. Anyone in this virtual-metropolis can put anything online, and once it is there anyone can access it.

The Seedier Side of Cyberspace
Like any metropolis, the web has neighborhoods, some safer and some horrific. Unlike any other metropolis, the web lacks a government, laws, or a police force. The only universally acknowledged cyber-crime is the intentional spreading of computer viruses -- infectious software programs that could impair the experience of other cyber-tourists. Beyond this, there are no moral guidelines. A turn down the wrong cyber-street guarantees exposure to information or images at least as corrosive as anything available in the streets of New York, Paris, or Tokyo -- and often even worse.

For example, the web hosts thousands of pornographic sites -- offering material that is as explicit and generally more violent than what is found in print publications 2 -- and these sites are heavily trafficked. In response to academic surveys, 25-50% of men with Internet access admit spending time online viewing explicit material. 3 While most visitors to pornographic sites are married college graduates 4, a Canadian survey reveals that 44% of men who visit these sites admit that they began doing so before age 16. 5 A British survey reported that over half of all word searches on the Internet are aimed at locating pornography. The top eight word searches were all pornography related. 6 Although much of the explicit material available online is free, through fee-per-view services and advertisements the online pornography industry currently generates about $1 billion annually. 7

Researchers explain that it is the web's "Triple-A Engine" -- access, affordability, and anonymity -- that drives the online pornography industry: 8

While men outnumber women 6:1 in their online use of explicit material, women slightly outnumber men when it comes to the "Chat Room" and "Multi-User Domain" (or MUD) 9 -- the cyberspace equivalent of a singles bar. Studies reveal that about 90% of Chat and MUD users form personal relationships; about one-third of these relationships result in a face-to-face meeting; and about a quarter of these relationships evolve into romantic involvements. 10

A large study of American teens just revealed that close to 60% have received an instant message or email from a total stranger, and 63% of those teens who have received such instant messages or emails say they responded but never told their parents. 11 In the last three years there have been several infamous cases of abduction, rape and murder in which the victim was first approached and lured through a Chat or MUD site, instant messaging, or emails. There are, no doubt, many more cases in which Chat, MUD, instant messaging, or email interactions led to psychologically destructive relationships. These are the harsh realities of cyber-street life.

The nature of human psychology is that over-indulgence in one pleasure creates a desire for another, more depraved pleasure, and so forth in a potentially unending downward spiral towards total degradation. In a nightmarish scenario, an upstanding gentleman could thus wake up to find himself on one of the web's many sites explicitly dedicated to facilitating illicit activity. Thousands of sites offer 24/7 online gambling, and researchers say upwards of 15 million people visit these sites annually and leave several billion dollars of their family's funds there. 12 Researchers also report that escorts and prostitutes in most major cities can now be reserved online. There are even special sites for those seeking extramarital affairs and other, more bizarre liaisons.

A Glimpse at the Damage: An Academic Perspective
Recent surveys identify a burgeoning trend of Internet-related divorces. 13 In most of these tragedies, visits to explicit sites, or extramarital relationships forged over the web, destroyed mutual trust and ripped the marriage apart. Sadly, I have seen first-hand in my counseling practice that the Jewish community is not immune to this plague.

In a landmark study, published in American Psychologist, researchers from Carnegie Mellon University examined the amount of time people spent interacting with other family members before and after installation of a computer with Internet access. During the two-year longitudinal study, family interaction declined dramatically, and the drop was directly proportional to the increase in Internet use. Ironically, many study participants justified their increasing time online saying they needed to "stay in touch" with more distant friends and relatives, while they increasingly ignored those they were living with. 14 I hear complaints weekly from spouses, parents, and especially children who feel the Internet has robbed them of their loved-ones.

As Internet involvement increases, so do loneliness and depression -- especially among middle and upper class males. 15 There are many theories about the relationship between Internet use and depression. For example, some researchers argue that productive people have only limited time to develop and maintain their most significant relationships, and moderate-to-heavy Internet use necessarily siphons hours off this precious reservoir, leaving people socially isolated and sad. Other researchers remind us that the mere act of sitting still in front of a computer display can trigger a biochemical chain-reaction that ends in depression. 16

A whole genre of studies describes the damage Internet involvement can wreak on academic performance. Although many parents help their children get online in order to bolster grades, research reveals that more time spent online translates into less time spent reading books and worse study skills. 17 The Internet cultivates impulsive jumping from web page to web page, but real learning requires still concentration. At a large New York university, the dropout rate among freshman rose proportionally as their investment in computers and Internet access increased. 18 Business analysts also note associations between employee Internet access and decreased productivity. 19

The Necessity of Identifying Risk Factors
It is clear that there is a need to protect one's children from the distractions and corrosive elements of the net. Limitations to Internet access, the use of filtering software and pre-filtered Internet providers, placement of computers in highly visible areas of one's home are all good ideas.

Ultimately, restricting Internet access is a necessary but insufficient solution. But what is needed is healing the personality weaknesses that virtually guarantee some individuals will fall victim to Internet temptations. Studies show that those most likely to get into trouble are not deterred by limits on Internet access. Given the net's ubiquitous presence, they will find a way to get online -- at the local public library, if not elsewhere. Therefore, a key challenge to parents and educators is identifying the risk factors and the individuals most at risk.

Researchers describe four pre-existing conditions that put an individual at high risk for getting into trouble on the Internet. 20 They are: lack of family bonds; low self-esteem; inability to express opinions and questions; and inability to socialize.

1. Lack of Family Bonds
Both for adults and children, the most statistically significant risk factor for Internet use is weak familial connections.

The data indicate that adults are at risk when they are unmarried or emotionally distant from their spouse. Anything we do to strengthen our marriages --from spending more time together as husbands and wives, to taking courses in the practice and philosophy of marriage -- makes us less vulnerable to the Internet.

The data also indicate that children are at risk when they are physically separated or emotionally distant from their parents. Anything we do to strengthen our relationships with our children -- from spending more one-on-one time with them, to taking courses in the practice and philosophy of parenting -- makes them less vulnerable to the Internet.

For centuries, rabbis have been teaching that children need parental love, and that when parents are not present to provide it, the children will find dangerous replacements elsewhere. 21 Therapists steeped in Jewish tradition were therefore not shocked when the director of computer-addiction services at McLean Hospital of Harvard Medical School, Maressa Hecht Orzack, recently revealed her finding that the children most vulnerable to the Internet 's magnetic pull are "from families where nobody is at home to relate to after school." Greeting our children when they arrive home from school, being there to send them off again in the morning, and spending quality time with them in between all constitute inoculations against the Internet.

2. Low Self-Esteem
Architects of the European Enlightenment attempted (and to a large degree succeeded) in persuading the masses that man was nothing more than a sophisticated monkey. When Rabbi Nosson Tzvi Finkel was preparing to found the now legendary yeshiva in Slobodka, he asked his teacher, Rabbi Israel Salanter, what principle should guide the institution. Rabbi Salanter, acutely aware of the degrading campaign being conducted all around him, answered with a verse from Isaiah, "Revive the spirit of the lowly and resuscitate the heart of those who have been crushed." 22 If we think we are apes, we will behave as such; and if we know we are more exalted than the angels, we will live up to that reality.

We are not surprised that study after study reveals that those who are most attracted to the most degraded Internet sites also have the lowest self-esteem. 23

Today's parents and teachers who have experimented with Isaiah's ancient approach -- teaching about the essential greatness of being human -- have experienced tremendous success. We can teach this not only through what we say, but through how we say it, and how we walk, eat, and dress. Every fiber of our existence can declare, "I am a mensch -- and so are you!" We must also be careful not to degrade others even when we need to rebuke them. Perhaps never before have we had so much to lose should we abandon the teachings of our forebears.

3. Inability to Express Opinions and Questions
Because of its perceived anonymity, the world of the web offers adults and children alike a place to say and ask what they feel they cannot say and ask in the real world. The less people feel they can discuss with their teachers and parents, the more likely they are to turn to the Internet for discussion and information. 24

We especially want our children and our adult students to ask us their questions regarding sexual matters and theological issues. We want our children and students to hear about these matters directly and exclusively from us, not only because the Internet offers such corrupt presentations of these topics, but also because these areas constitute the most precious aspects of our nation's tradition. It is a tremendous privilege to pass along these special gifts to the next generation.

We must be sober enough to realize that today almost all children and many adults have questions on these topics. If they are not asking us, they are either getting answers elsewhere or looking for an opportunity to do so. We must encourage our children and our adult students to inquire, and then we must give them suitable answers. If we do not know how to approach these topics or respond to our children's questions, we can approach our own teachers and counselors, master these aspects of our tradition, and then pass these teachings on to the next generation.

4. Inability to Socialize
Data indicate that many who turn to the Internet for pornography or social contact do so because they consistently fail to succeed socially in their own world. 25 These individuals generally fall into one of two categories: the socially inept; and the "not-so-beautiful."

First, there are the socially inept. These are individuals who never mastered how to get along with others. When they were young, they often studied straight through recess or preferred playing computer games or doing other solitary activities. In some cases, they wanted to play with everyone else but were excluded. In their pre-teens or even earlier, these children were joining the ranks of the "at-risk" for later Internet involvement.

Their cases highlight the crucial educational potential of recess time. The playground and after-school free play are not only the perfect venues for teaching less popular children how to make friends, share, and lose with a smile; they are also ideal opportunities to teach more popular children how to pick teams using randomizing procedures (instead of choosing just their friends), introduce new members to their clique, and encourage those who are less socially confident. Just as the classroom is ideal for teaching math and science, the playground is ideal for teaching character refinement. It would be odd if we left either of these venues unsupervised. Those teachers and parents who invest time in supervising free play are taking a vital step in inoculating the next generation against the dangers of the Internet.

The second group who fail socially and are therefore at risk for Internet use are those not considered "beautiful" -- they lack the physical attractiveness or money that would give them a fighting chance in many social circles. Despite being thoughtful, deep people with nice character, these men and women usually have suffered repeated social rejection.

Men in this category are sometimes attracted to Internet pornography because it gives them a brief -- albeit depraved -- opportunity to leave their painful, lonesome reality. Loneliness can be excruciating, and these men are so desperate to escape their solitary lives that they use the Internet like a sort of hallucinogenic drug. After the fantasy, return to reality is even more painful, and then these men often feel terribly guilty too; but until they find real companionship, they are likely to return to the net again and again.

Women who lack physical attractiveness or money are sometimes attracted to the Internet because the medium conceals their "appearance." While mainstream dating requires that people first reveal their physical profile or wealth, and only then get to know each other, the virtual world of the web seems to offer the opportunity first to get to know someone and only afterward discover these less intrinsic details. In theory, this should tip the scales in favor of nice-but-ordinary-looking, or nice-but-poor women.

The assumption is dangerously naive, however, since so many Internet relationships are built on deception and misrepresentation. Children pretend to be adults, adults pretend to be children, men pretend to be women and vice-versa, and people lie about their religion, background and accomplishments. In one survey, more than a quarter of those who socialized using email or instant messaging admitted to lying about their identity. 26 Not surprisingly, disappointment and heartbreak are commonplace in Internet romance. This is not to mention those beastly predators who go online specifically to lure unsuspecting individuals to personal meetings and then victimize them.

We can teach our children about the cyber-street and about the hucksters and criminals who live there. This could lessen the Internet 's attractiveness as a forum for meeting friends and partners. An even more significant step in reducing our children's vulnerability would be to teach children and students to value personal refinement and integrity at least as much as they value physical appearance or money.

The challenges and threats posed by the Internet leaves us no option but to strengthen family ties and teacher-student relationships; to stress in our educational approach and behavior the essential greatness of being human; to encourage questions and open discussion, especially about issues related to sexuality and religion; and to raise a generation who will seek marriage partners who are above all emblems of refinement and integrity. Parents and teachers who recognize these challenges can adjust to modernity and raise a heroic generation. Those who fail to see this hairpin turn in the path towards normalcy could lead their children and students over a disastrous precipice.

(to see original and the references for this article, click here)


"Can you really forgive when you can't forget?"
-Carrie Bradshaw, SEX & THE CITY

Sunday, January 08, 2006

Online Dating Service TRUE(R) Sues Convicted Sex Offender; Convicted Felon Caught Misrepresenting Self to Online Daters

DALLAS (PRNewswire) -- The leading online relationship service TRUE(R) filed a lawsuit in United States District Court against convicted sex offender Dr. Robert Wells of Walnut Creek, California.

Dr. Wells was convicted in 2001 of attempted lewd and lascivious acts with a child under 14 years, a felony Contemporaneous press reports indicate that Dr. Wells allegedly planned to "abduct and rape" his underage victim. Upon becoming a member of TRUE, Dr. Wells claimed he was not a felon. TRUE believes this false representation violated both federal and state law.

Upon discovering Dr. Wells' felony history, TRUE took immediate action to increase the safety of its membership base, reporting Dr. Wells to appropriate authorities and taking the unprecedented step of filing suit against Dr. Wells. TRUE is seeking a permanent injunction preventing Dr. Wells from accessing the TRUE.com website and contacting its members. In addition, TRUE believes that Dr. Wells violated federal wire fraud laws when he falsely represented himself to TRUE and its members as a non-felon. This charge could subject Dr. Wells to additional fines, penalties and jail time.

"When I founded this company, I made a commitment to our members that we would do our best to create a wholesome environment for courtship -- one that includes a safer dating experience," said Herb Vest, founder and CEO of TRUE. "As part of that commitment, we continue to lead the industry by implementing criminal background and marital screening to help weed out potentially dangerous individuals. According to the Department of Justice's Criminal Offender Statistics, approximately 67.5 percent of convicted criminals released from prison are rearrested for a felony or serious crime making criminal background screening a must for the online dating industry. Our criminal background screening covers approximately 94% of all U.S. felonies and over 170 million criminal records, but it cannot catch every criminal. This is why background screening is simply the first step toward increasing the safety of our members. Our member safety program also relies heavily on feedback from our members, who we encourage to directly report suspicious persons or activity on our website."

Some United States jurisdictions restrict access to criminal conviction data, which prevents many companies from locating complete criminal history information when they choose to run a background screening. For example, the California statewide sex offender registry is not available to businesses such as True.com. This lack of access to complete records made it more difficult to discover that Dr. Wells was a felony sex offender, since his crime occurred in a jurisdiction that does not allow companies to access his conviction information.

"It is sad the State of California maintains laws that actually protect the privacy of criminals," Vest said. "I would like to see convicted felony records opened to the public in all jurisdictions to better protect our consumers and our children."

TRUE became aware of Dr. Wells' sex offender status when a TRUE.com member directly contacted the company. "When I saw Dr. Wells on TRUE.com, I contacted the company immediately. TRUE's employees took my concern seriously, promptly investigated my claim and quickly removed Dr. Wells' profile from the website," said TRUE.com member Brooke Benson*. "Even more disturbing, I previously found Dr. Wells on several other major online dating sites, including eHarmony. In fact, I contacted eHarmony and their reaction was so non-aggressive that I continue to fear for the safety of eHarmony's members. I believe Dr. Wells' profile is still available on these other dating websites, allowing him to potentially prey on their members. I applaud TRUE for taking my complaint seriously and working to better protect the safety of its members," added Ms. Benson.

"We prominently warn consumers that if they misrepresent their criminal history or marital status for the purpose of gaining access to communication privileges with our subscribers, they could be subject to civil and criminal penalties under federal and state law," said Vest. "There is a new sheriff in town, and we mean what we say in our warnings. I challenge the rest of the
online relationship and dating industry to follow our lead and show a similar concern for their members' safety."

TRUE, which since its inception has been a strong advocate of safer online dating, is a member of the Safer Online Dating Alliance (SODA) and continues to lead the industry in pursuing issues to further increase online dating safety. TRUE works with legislators, victim advocacy groups, law enforcement officials and other parties concerned about safety issues to raise awareness
of the need for greater consumer protection and public safety in the world of online dating.

Cyberstalkers beware: New toolkit nabs online predators

Cyberstalkers beware: New toolkit nabs online predators

by Jill Elish

Researchers at Florida State University are developing a computer system designed to help law enforcement agents thwart cyberstalking.

Computer science Professor Sudhir Aggarwal and members of the Florida Cybersecurity Institute have built a hardware and software prototype called the Predator and Prey Alert (PAPA) system. The forensic toolkit is designed to provide high-quality evidence for the prosecution of cyberstalking cases.

"Cyberstalking is becoming an increasing problem, but it has been difficult to do anything about it," Aggarwal said. "The anonymity of the Internet makes it easier to do than physical stalking. Stalkers used to use the phone or show up on your doorstep; now they can use a computer."

The PAPA project, which is funded by a $281,000 grant from the National Institute of Justice, also involves researchers from the Florida Department of Law Enforcement (FDLE) and the National White Collar Crime Center (NW3C). FDLE and the NW3C will evaluate the prototype before the group pursues its goal of developing a commercial version of the tool in the next few years, Aggarwal said.

Cyberstalking, in its simplest form, is stalking via the Internet. In recent years there has been a growing trend toward the criminalization of cyberstalking. Florida, for example, made cyberstalking a first-degree misdemeanor in 2003 with a statute that describes it as communication by way of e-mail or other electronic communication directed at a specific person, causing substantial emotional distress to that person and serving no legitimate purpose. Aggravated stalking and stalking of a minor are among the variations that constitute felony charges.

Despite the new laws, law enforcement agencies have had difficulty trying to prevent and detect cyberstalking and apprehend the perpetrators. The anonymity and reach of the Internet, the fragility of electronic evidence, and privacy statutes that protect all forms of live wire communication all pose law enforcement challenges, Aggarwal said.

"More people have access to technology, and these cyberstalkers are more sophisticated users so they can better cover their tracks," he said.

The PAPA system allows a law enforcement agent to remotely shadow a victim, advise the victim by communicating through a separate side channel and assume control of the victim's computer in order to interact directly with the stalker. While the victim is logged on, PAPA automatically records all exchanges displayed on screen, even when the agent is not available.

"The PAPA system takes advantage of the cyberstalker's aggressive and repetitive behavior by recording the victim's desktop experience of attacks and giving investigators the ability to proactively intervene," Aggarwal said. "The agent can assume the online identity of the victim, or collaborate with the victim via a second channel."

Recorded data is securely stored on the session recorder to prevent evidence tampering. Analysis and presentation of evidence is explored through a console that permits basic and advanced searches of the recorded data.

The system is designed to collect evidence that conforms to admissibility standards by avoiding surveillance methods that violate privacy standards, such as those outlined in federal wiretapping statutes, Aggarwal said.

Aggarwal, FSU computer science Professor Mike Burmester, Florida Cybersecurity Institute research coordinator Judie Mulholland and FSU graduate student Peter Henry and Leo Kermes developed the concept after discussing ideas with Bob Breeden of FDLE and representatives of NW3C.

Saturday, January 07, 2006



The dating site fraud allegation saga continues. Indirectly, they hurt the entire industry. Worst case scenario prediction, they settle out of court with a people duped by a supermodel photo at a time when they were most vulnerable. If it comes to a class-action lawsuit, maybe a few million people get a free month extension on their existing dating site. What does that cost a major dating site? Electricity and bandwidth. 30 days later, we're back where we started.

Companies that offer background checks have been trying to get dating sites to offer their background check and authentication services to the online dating industry for almost two years now. The industries resistance (costs, integration, fear of being first) has hurt everyone, from other dating sites to, most importantly, the consumer who puts that $20 a month in their coffers.

It could be that all that's required is a more stringent signup process, including verification, or perhaps dating sites will take a look at social networking to see where they should be headed. Otherwise, the progenitors of Myspace will continue to usurp members at an alarming rate. Soon enough, dating sites may be perceived as virtually indistinguishable from social networking sites.

All dating sites contain a certain number of fake profiles. They are either placed by the service, directly by first-person scammers, or indirectly as in a dating agency scam. How will lawyers identify the origin of "fake" profiles? this is much more difficult than I previously thought.

Dating site A contacts members at the end of their membership cycle via fake profiles, with the goal of extending your membership. Clearly, this is fraud. To be sure, any dating site unethical enough to put up fake profiles or otherwise deceive customers deserves the wrath of Elliot Spitzer. As if consumers weren't down on online dating already.

Russian dating agency B, which take money from women and posting their photos on dating sites without their knowledge, then demanding exorbitant fees from American men to contact them, clearly is committing fraud.

This type of fraud is incredibly difficult to identify.

Dating site C has scammers directly posting all varieties of fake profiles, and continues to defraud members of the site via various scenarios.

Type B and C scammers will always remain one step of the dating sites. The fraud may occur farther down the timeline, but it always does. Some things will never change.

Dating site D contacts people at the end of their membership extolling the virtues of the service, asking them to stick around, surveying them to find out what went wrong and suggesting solutions that outweigh leaving the service. Not as part of a "We're sorry to see you go" form letter but a more dynamic form of communication, perhaps in the form on IM's, emails or even clearly-identified employee profiles (again, acting as community monitors. chat rooms have done this for years.)

Why aren't they more proactive about keeping their members happy and content? Because until now, no one cared. As long and the burn & churn rate keeps 2k-10k people signing up a day, the site is making money, either from advertising or subscriptions.

At iDate you will find several companies entering the online dating space who are going to force the old guard to change how the run their service and treat customers. New dating sites that take advantage of the new way of dating will have a tremendous effect on the bottom lines of dating sites large and small.